Southern Comfort: Review of Two Peas and 505’s We’re Bastards
The Old 505 Theatre has been gradually building a reputation for hosting some of the best indie theatre in Sydney, and the latest offering from Two Peas, We’re Bastards (2014) certainly continues this.
Oleg Pupovac (who also performs) has written an intriguing living-room play, well suited to the intimate space offered at The Old 505. Set in the Deep South of Alabama We’re Bastards tells the story of white-trash brother and sister, Joey and Darling Thomas. Their father abandoned them several years ago whilst their mother drank herself to an early grave. Left alone, Joey lazes around in his underwear, chewing tobacco and both are heavy drinkers. All this changes however when Darling falls pregnant. The father wants nothing to do with the child, but the siblings determine to turn over a new leaf in order to raise young Joshua.
Here the theme of fatherhood begins to take on major significance. In their world, the father is seen to be the person who can improve and shape circumstances and is the one who sets up the child’s future. Joey was abandoned by his father and has suffered as a result. Joshua has similarly been abandoned. Although Joey does his best to fill the parental role, he can’t seem to shake his bad habits, (nor can Darling for that matter) and things spiral out of control as the pair direct their anger and frustration at their situation towards each other.
At the end of the play the image of God as the ultimate father figure is invoked. Joey rails against God, positioning him as the father who has the power to improve their situation, but just like himself, God is an uncaring figure. God has no interest in his creations: he too has abandoned his children and left them to their own devices. What Joey fails to see – at least with regard to his own situation – is that he too has the power to create something better but does not, being so consumed by the wrong done to him.
Oleg Pupovac does a stellar job as Joey, who is best described as a Notebook Ryan Gosling with Southern overtones. Pupovac managed a complexly layered performance as this loveable yet flawed redneck, particularly standing out with the sheer rawness he exhibited. Pupovac commanded the stage during his final monologue, which was both affecting and haunting.
As sister Darling, Tara Clark was equally impressive. Perfect Alabama accent aside, Clark managed a wonderful light in performance whilst allowing for the occasional cloud to creep in. She balanced well the naivety of young parenthood with the unbridled enthusiasm of an expectant teen mum. If anything Clark was too controlled – some moments she could have escalated further without appearing overdramatic.
In the bit role of Baby Daddy Luke Carson was suitably menacing. When out of sight, Carson’s deep Southern rhythm was unsettling, a collective breath was held when the door opened for his first entrance.
For a young writer, Pupovac has written a fine piece of theatre. With a running time of only 80 minutes the play never lags, and it keeps the audience intrigued throughout. His scenes are tight, the characters believably flawed, and, for a non-American, his dialogue sounded authentic to the speech patterns of the South. If there is a single drawback it is that he potentially leaves too much work for his final scene, as it attempts to pull all the themes in the play together for the first time. This makes for a slightly flat finish when compared to the rest of the piece. However, this is more than forgivable, and certainly doesn’t detract from the quality of the writing, or the performances.
We Bastards is playing at The Old 505 Theatre until the 23rd of February, and is a must see for fans of the independent Sydney Theatre scene. For more information and ticket bookings see: